Employment public servants plan to get in the face of their Minister Eric Abetz with CPSU action

Public servants working in Employment Minister Eric Abetz's own department are planning to bring their pay dispute right into Senator Abetz's office.

The Employment Department's main union, the CPSU, wants to be able to disrupt the flow of information between the key department and its political bosses as part of a planned campaign of protected industrial action.

But the minister said the move was counterproductive and urged the union to act responsibly.

The CPSU applied on Wednesday to the industrial umpire for consent to ballot its members on other forms of disruption including stoppages and work bans.

The move comes after a ballot of the department's workforce in December resulted in a crushing defeat for a pay deal of 1.4 per cent over three years that came with another 46 job cuts, a 30-minutes-longer working week and the loss of a Christmas half-day shutdown.


Just 77 Employment Department workers voted to accept the deal with 1419 voting against.

In the wake of the vote, Senator Abetz warned that the offer would get no better and that departments had no capacity to offer better wages and conditions than those already on the table.

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In response, the CPSU will seek permission to enforce bans on public servants at Employment working more than their mandated 7.5 hours a day, read pro-union messages during telephone interactions, and ignore their bosses calls and emails.

There could also be a ban on using the Parliamentary Document Management System which will make it tough for departmental bosses to track and complete Ministerial work by deadlines.

The union's National Secretary Nadine Flood left no doubt on Wednesday the CPSU was seeking to draw Senator Abetz directly into the dispute.

"Despite that emphatic signal from his own staff, Minister Abetz is still refusing to acknowledge his approach [to bargaining] is a problem," Ms Flood said.

"Staff in a growing number of public service agencies are ready to move to industrial action to safeguard their rights and conditions.

"Senator Abetz could avoid causing further unrest by sitting down with unions and trying to find a sensible path to settlement.

"Unfortunately he still refuses to meet to talk about his bargaining policy."

But the minister said industrial action in his department would be "counterproductive" and castigated the union for its 12 per cent pay claim over the three year life of the deal.

"It would be a counterproductive exercise for the CPSU  to organise industrial action in support of its claim for a 12 per cent pay rise, which is utterly unrealistic and would cost the jobs of 10,000 public servants," Senator Abetz said.

"The Public Service and the Australian people understand the difficult financial circumstances that we face as a nation and therefore the offers that are on the table are reasonable in all the circumstances.

"Leadership has been shown by the government, rejecting any pay increase for ministers and secretaries."

"We are in a very low inflationary environment and I'd encourage the CPSU to take a more responsible stance."

Correction: An earlier version of this story said the pay deal offered was 2.8 per cent over three years. The offer was 1.4 per cent over three years.


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